3 Year ADP Grade vs. Final Fantasy Rank: Running Back

Written by John Ferguson
August 15, 2019

Welcome to the running back edition of the 3 Year ADP Grade vs Final Fantasy Rank series! 

Every season fantasy fanatics everywhere have cheat sheets they like to put together. Some prefer to buy them, some spend hours, days, and weeks pulling data and tweaking numbers until they get a system they are mostly happy with. This season, I decided to take my cheat sheet one step further and offer it up here at FantasyData for everyone to use. I have torn apart our historical ADP data along with our stats and season leaders tools to give a unique look at each position. We are going to use a three-year sample size here and compare average draft positions (ADP) vs final ranks (FR) to see which players commonly under or overperform each season. We'll also look at points per game (PPG) totals and ranks to hopefully give you a completely zoomed out, unbiased look at past performances and how they relate to each player's 2019 ADP. If you are into the value-based drafting (VBD) strategy or just prefer a more risk-averse approach on draft day, this is your dream sheet.

My goal with providing this information is also to eliminate too much opinion and look purely at what has happened and then that gives you a jumping-off point to decide for yourself where things will go in 2019. Yearly consensus ADPs are a great indicator of popular opinion, but we will also look here at how often past ADPs have been accurate for each player. I will still give some notes on players that really stand out to me based on this info. I should also mention that since we are looking at three-year samples here, rookies and second-year players won't be included. This is a lovechild of mine that I have spent countless hours on, I hope it helps you better prepare for fantasy drafts this season!

Quick Glossary of Primary Columns

  • 2019 ADP vs 3Y ADP Diff: 2019 Average Draft Position vs Three-Year Average Draft Position Differential (column AD)
  • 3Y ADP/FR Diff: Three-Year Average Draft Position vs Three-Year Average Final Rank Differential (column AE)
  • 2019 ADP vs 3YAFR Diff: 2019 Average Draft Position vs Three-Year Average Final Rank Differential (column AF)

Other 3 Year ADP Grade vs. Rank Articles

2019 ADPs vs Three Year ADPs

The first column we're going to sort here for RBs is looking at their 2019 ADPs (column T) and comparing that to their 3Y ADPs (column U). This tells us whose ADP is significantly higher or lower in 2019 compared to their 3Y ADP. The goal here is to find solid value plays who have a positive value in the charts while also seeing which players you're paying up for and potentially present a risk based on their past ADPs. First, we will filter column AD by the best positive value.

Positive Value Plays

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At the top of this list, Theo Riddick is an obvious outlier right now based on the fact that he isn't really expected to be fantasy relevant at all this season. After that, we start to get some true value plays in some grinding vets and teammates, LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore. Gore especially loves proving us wrong and has done so quite consistently if you look back at his individual seasons ADP/FR differentials above. We are on average about 17.6 spots low on Gore every season. If that trend were to continue and based off of Gore's 2019 ADP of RB76, he has the potential to finish around RB58. That may not sound like much to write home about, but it is borderline flex-level production and probably good enough to consider him as a matchup-based starter should he carve out a consistent enough role. McCoy is the tougher one to predict here because he has the feel of a potential trade target, especially if rookie Devin Singletary really shows well in the preseason. McCoy hasn't lived up to his ADP each of the last two seasons, but his ADP drop of 31 spots is one of the most substantial amongst all RBs. 

The next name that stands out to me is a guy I have been all over supporting this season and that's Carlos Hyde. His ADP has dropped 28.3 spots lower than his 3YA despite the fact that he is fighting for a lead role on the prolific KC Chiefs offense this season where Andy Reid has churned out legitimate RB1s year in and year out. Hyde is one of the most polarizing players in fantasy this season, but as you can see above he has produced solid numbers in the past. I'm all over Hyde for a number of reasons and his 2019 ADP value shown here just helps justify that. Our own Jody Smith broke Hyde's situation down in more detail recently.

Duke Johnson is next up that catches my eye here. Any of the guys who give you three green lights across the board are worth looking into. What I find interesting about Duke is that his ADP is probably in a process of readjusting still after his recent trade to the Texans, but despite that, he still shows up as a value here. I don't see him jumping up more than 18 spots without a Lamar Miller injury or something like that happening which keeps Duke's 2019 ADP in the green compared to his 3Y ADP. The reason seeing green across the board for guys like him is so important is because it also shows us that his 3YA final ranks have been higher than his ADP and also shows that his 3YA final ranks are higher than his 2019 ADP. There is a lot of value here. And speaking of Lamar Miller, he himself is just a few spots below Duke on this list. While Miller hasn't paid off on his ADP as drastically as Duke has over the last three years, Miller has remained pretty consistently around his 3YA final rank of RB19.3, making his 2019 ADP of RB29 nearly a 10 point value.

Pass-catching specialists have all graded out well this season when you like at guys like Jalen Richard, Gio Bernard, Dion Lewis, and Chris Thompson. All four of these guys give us green lights across the board when looking at their three-year average data, though Richard was the only one who massively paid off based on his ADP last season. Lewis and Thompson are cheap buys if you're looking for a bounce-back candidate while Bernard will fight to remain Joe Mixon's primary handcuff.

Jordan Howard has gotten a bad wrap the last two years as a fantasy bust. While it's true, he hasn't lived up to his ADP the last two years, he still didn't miss by much finishing five and seven spots lower respectively. His 2016 breakout was strong enough to keep his averages elevated into positive value play territory. Now on the Eagles who have fought the Patriots for "most frustrating backfield to predict" over the last couple years, Howard has seen his stock plummet. I personally still think he can manage to finish around the RB20-25 range. You're getting him at a great discount this season.

Negative Value Plays

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Before I dive into any players here, an interesting trend that stands out here with the negative 2019 ADP value plays is that these are pretty much all guys who are coming off a strong season where they beat our their ADP in 2018, but also have beat out their ADPs over the last three years on average. So now they have finally hit their peak and they are no longer value plays. You can't really consider any of these guys sleepers in that case.

The top of this list ironically plays into my love for Carlos Hyde with Damien Williams carrying the most risk at his 2019 ADP. A career back up, Williams is ticketed for a larger role this season with the Chiefs than he has ever seen in his career which has sent his stock soaring. The recent injuries have actually brought him down a tad, but not enough to make a difference. This is one of those situations where you're paying for the continuation of a breakout that isn't guaranteed. There is little wiggle room in his draft price.

Aaron Jones and Marlon Mack are also guys who are being bought at a price that they haven't ever actually accomplished yet in a full season. Though they have each beaten their ADPs over the last two seasons, they need a meteoric rise to do so this season. 

Matt Breida has crushed his ADP each of the last two seasons and thought his 2019 ADP isn't a value based on his average, it is lower than what his ADP was last season (RB44). Why this is impressive is that Breida finished as the RB26 last season, so to see that big of a difference in his ADP and final rank last season, the fact that his value has dropped provides a nice setup. This is all happened, of course, because of the addition of Tevin Coleman to an already muddled backfield. But this RB corps continues to struggle with health and if Coleman and Breida can enter the season the only two healthy primary backs, Breida should be able to carve out a solid role and with his explosive playmaking ability, he doesn't necessarily need substantial volume to make a splash. This could be a decent buy low/sell high opportunity right out of the gate.  

Three Year ADP vs. Final Rank Differential 

Here we are going to be filtering the next column over (AE) and looking at players whose final ranks have been higher or lower than their ADPs on average over the last three years. This will give us a better idea of who has been killing us and who has been carrying our teams at providing us with substantial draft value in the past.

Positive Value Plays

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This filter is like a jackpot of value. Look at all that green. The top names on this list here are no longer value plays in 2019 as we can see with their negative value in the first column we went over. The names you really want to focus on here are guys who are green across the board again which shows that they have beaten out their ADP over the last three years on average, and their ADP in 2019 is lower than it has been on average as well.

First up at the top, of course, is Damien Williams. He has beaten out his ADP each of the last three years, but that is because he hasn't had a role before this season that really made him fantasy relevant outside of being a deep handcuff. Austin Ekeler is another guy at the top here who could have an interesting role this season depending on how the whole Melvin Gordon holdout goes. Ekeler has provided decent standalone value though as a change of pace.

We are seeing a trend with all the 49ers RBs popping up as positive value plays due to the muddy nature of their roles and ranks amongst themselves. That is getting more clear as we get closer to Week 1 as natural selection is basically giving us the option of drafting Matt Breida or Tevin Coleman. Breida I already elaborated on earlier, so we will focus a little more on Coleman here who has also beaten out his ADP each of the last three seasons. The nature of Coleman showing up here is a little bit more impressive than Breida honestly given the fact that Coleman's ADP of RB36 over the last three years has ranked him 23 spots higher than Breida, yet Coleman continues to beat out his ADP. You're only buying Coleman eight spots higher this season than average which isn't that big of a jump really and still leaves him with eight additional ranks of positive value as wiggle room given the fact that he has beaten his ADP by 16 spots on average. 

Latavius Murray is an interesting play here despite having a small negative value at his 2019 ADP. Murray has beaten out his ADP each of the last three seasons by an average of 13.4 spots. Based on that value and looking at his ADP around RB35 in 2019, this would give him a potential ceiling around RB21 which is actually also pretty consistent with his 3YA final rank of RB25.3. Expected to take on some of the workload abandoned by Mark Ingram, Lat Murray sets up nicely this season and has a history of not busting.

Negative Value Plays

Obviously, this is not where you want your guys to be. This is going to look at who has been the biggest busts in fantasy by not living up to their ADP on average. 

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This might seem like a fairly short list of busts, but remember that this research is only covering guys with at least two years worth of data to analyze to get averages. There are an additional six players who didn't live up to their ADP in their rookie seasons last year: Ronald Jones (-50), Royce Freeman (-32), Rashaad Penny (-31), Kalen Ballage (-25), Kerryon Johnson (-7), and Sony Michel (-1).

Le'Veon Bell's surprise holdout completely sinks his average. Now on the Jets, Bell is only being taken 2.7 spots lower than his 3Y ADP which isn't the screaming deal you would expect considering Bell will have not seen the field in a meaningful NFL game for more than 600 days come Week 1. People are still paying for a top-shelf RB1.

Not surprisingly, injuries are the biggest killer here at the top of the negative value playlist for RBs with Adrian Peterson and David Johnson showing up. Dalvin Cook fits into this list, but what sets him apart is that it wasn't just one lost season for him. It's been a reoccurring issue for him unfortunately to start his career. Same goes for D'Onta Foreman. 

Chris Carson, Joe Mixon, and Derrick Henry are all guys who bounced back in 2018 after not living up to their ADPs in 2017. Of these three, Henry is the only guy I'm not buying in 2019 due to the random nature of him just running wild at the end of the season to pad his stats. He has shown us a larger and more consistent sample size in 2016 and 2017 that has kept him in that RB40 range where he manages closer to only eight PPG.

2019 ADP vs Three Year Average Final Rank Differential

The last column (AF) that we look at here is one of my favorites and really pulls everything together into the most useful piece of information probably in all of this research. Who has finished higher on average than their current 2019 ADP? 

Positive Value Plays

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There really aren't a lot of surprises now at this point as far as which players are coming up, but more about how they are ranked. It kind of shows the black and white nature of the running back position. 

Duke Johnson continues to be one of my favorite value plays depending on how squirrely his ADP gets after the trade, but for now, he remains a solid buy. We all might be too low on Jamaal Williams, though it's rightfully so. He hasn't shown us much with the opportunities he was given, but maybe he too can turn a new leaf with a new coaching regime if he can also manage to come into the season healthy. Aaron Jones hasn't exactly been the model of health himself so Williams could fall into work alongside rookie Dexter Williams at some point. Jamaal qualifies as a decent handcuff and has beaten out his 2019 ADP by 28 spots. 

Jerick McKinnon can't catch a break health-wise but has crushed his ADP when active. He has finished 24 spots higher than his 2019 ADP when active and if he can start the season active and stay off the PUP list he could return value. Elijah McGuire has popped up a few times here without mention. He's an underrated handcuff himself behind Le'Veon Bell coming into the season and gives us a green light across the board for value. He also showed up big in the passing game in Week 1 of the preseason.

Mark Ingram rounds out this list here who also gives us green lights across the board for value. His value numbers aren't exactly doorbusters, but they're positive values nonetheless. I really don't know that Ingram's value changes that much with the move to Baltimore. He has a solid three-down skill set and the team will probably lead the league in rushing attempts this season. I think his 3YA final rank around RB15 is actually a pretty attainable finish for him this season.

Negative Value Plays

Lastly, here are the players whose 2019 ADP is higher than their three-year average final ranks and by exactly how much.

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As we have seen a little bit already with some of the other negative filters, this is a mishmash of injury-plagued seasons with just plain mediocre performance sprinkled in. You're banking on Damien Williams to breakout completely and carry the full RB1 workload at his current ADP which is far from guaranteed. You're banking on full and healthy seasons from guys like Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones, Devonta Freeman, Marlon Mack, and Leonard Fournette. Even Austin Ekeler has gone from a consistent value play to being overdrafted now in the midst of Melvin Gordon's holdout. 

Sometimes you have to make risky picks in fantasy that others won't make to set yourself apart from the pack. There's a lot of luck involved and the draft is just one part of the season-long gauntlet. But if you want to go with less risk in your draft at any point, and look for a safer pick who will likely return value based on his draft capital, this guide will help get you there. I hope you take something away from all of this and it is really worth spending some time exploring. I learn something new every day and I have been starring at these sheets for months already! If you found this useful, make sure you check out the same research for all the other skill positions. Good luck this season!


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John Ferguson

John Ferguson is an avid Fantasy Football fanatic with 10+ years of experience in friends and family leagues, paying public leagues, and DFS Tournaments. Ferguson specializes in draft strategies, trade negotiations (Buy Low/Sell High) and DFS value picks amongst other parts of fantasy football analysis. When Ferguson isn’t spending time skimming over stats while at the beach, he follows the Oakland Athletics closely as a diehard fan and enjoys spending quality time with his beautiful wife and three children. A native of Monterey, California, Ferguson now calls Quintana Roo, Mexico home.